Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quiz April 7

Bertrand Russell, "Why I Am Not a Christian"

1. What's Russell's definition of a Christian?

2. What changed Russell's mind about the First-cause Argument?

3. If there were reasons for divine law, why does God then become superfluous?

4. What "makes you turn your attention to other things"?

5. What's the gnostic position Russell is not concerned to refute?

6. What was Christ's serious character defect?

BONUS: Who does Russell rank above Christ in wisdom and virtue?

BONUS: From what does Russell say the conception of God derives?

DQ - Please post your suggestions...

  • Do you agree with Russell's definition of Christianity?
  • Is it simply a lack of imagination that leads people to think the universe must have had a beginning?
  • Why do some people defer implicitly to the idea of divine fiat, while others insist that any fiat endorsing a conception of rectitude they find personally repugnant would not deserve to be revered? Is this a temperamental difference we should all just accept, or should deference be disputed?
  • Are you depressed,consoled, or entirely unmoved by the thought that our form of life will die out eventually?
  • Do you find it more plausible to think the universe a product of blind or even malevolent forces, than to consider it the product of benevolent design? Would you feel more "at home" in such a universe, or in a universe with a lesser (non-omnipotent) God?
  • Why don't religious people want to acknowledge Christ's imperfections?
  • Do you question the historical existence of Christ? Is Christ's actual (as opposed to scriptural/mythic) existence relevant to your evaluation of Christianity as a faith tradition?
  • Do you think Socrates and Buddha were better men than Christ?
  • Is the concept of God inherently slavish, servile, and despotic? Is the idea of "submission" demeaning to self-respecting free people? Can we reject it without sacrificing a suitably-Socratic humility?
  • Is fear the central impulse behind religion?
Following up on last time's discussion of the "long now" project -
The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today's accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.
The Clock and Library Projects. Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed-some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where 'long-term' is measured at least in centuries. Long Now proposes both a mechanism and a myth. It began with an observation and idea by computer scientist Daniel Hillis :
"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 02000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."

Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well-engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think... The point is to explore whatever may be helpful for thinking, understanding, and acting responsibly over long periods of time. Stewart Brand

The Omega Glory. I was reading, in a recent issue of Discover, about the Clock of the Long Now. Have you heard of this thing? It is going to be a kind of gigantic mechanical computer, slow, simple and ingenious, marking the hour, the day, the year, the century, the millennium, and the precession of the equinoxes, with a huge orrery to keep track of the immense ticking of the six naked-eye planets on their great orbital mainspring. The Clock of the Long Now will stand sixty feet tall, cost tens of millions of dollars, and when completed its designers and supporters, among them visionary engineer Danny Hillis, a pioneer in the concept of massively parallel processing; Whole Earth mahatma Stewart Brand; and British composer Brian Eno (one of my household gods), plan to hide it in a cave in the Great Basin National Park in Nevada, a day’s hard walking from anywhere. Oh, and it’s going to run for ten thousand years. That is about as long a span as separates us from the first makers of pottery, which is among the oldest technologies we have. Ten thousand years is twice as old as the pyramid of Cheops, twice as old as that mummified body found preserved in the Swiss Alps, which is one of the oldest mummies ever discovered. The Clock of the Long Now is being designed to thrive under regular human maintenance along the whole of that long span, though during periods when no one is around to tune it, the giant clock will contrive to adjust itself. But even if the Clock of the Long Now fails to last ten thousand years, even if it breaks down after half or a quarter or a tenth that span, this mad contraption will already have long since fulfilled its purpose. Indeed the Clock may have accomplished its greatest task before it is ever finished, perhaps without ever being built at all. The point of the Clock of the Long Now is not to measure out the passage, into their unknown future, of the race of creatures that built it. The point of the Clock is to revive and restore the whole idea of the Future, to get us thinking about the Future again, to the degree if not in quite the way same way that we used to do, and to reintroduce the notion that we don’t just bequeath the future—though we do, whether we think about it or not. We also, in the very broadest sense of the first person plural pronoun, inherit it... -Michael Chabon, continues
Lawrence M. Krauss (@LKrauss1)
Tennessee seems to be trying to compete again in race to the bottom. foxnews.com/politics/2016/…

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Having already made a .50-caliber sniper gun the official state rifle, Tennessee lawmakers on Monday gave final approval to making the Holy Bible the state's official book.

The state Senate voted 19-8 in favor of the bill despite arguments by the state attorney general that the measure conflicts with a provision in the Tennessee Constitution stating that "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."

Opponents argued the Bible would be trivialized by being placed alongside other state symbols such as the official tree, flower, rock or amphibian. But both chambers of the Legislature brushed aside those concerns to send the bill to the desk of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. He opposes the measure but hasn't said whether he'll issue a veto.

Republican Sen. Steve Southerland argued that his bill is aimed at recognizing the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state, rather than as government endorsement of religion.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro questioned why the legislation highlights the economic impact of Bible publishing in the state, or that Bibles were traditionally used to track family histories.

"I don't think that's why we read the Bible, I don't think that's why we send our kids to vacation Bible school," Yarbro said. "To those of us who grew up in this faith, it is so much more."

In solidly Republican Tennessee, heavy doses of God and guns are considered reliable election-year politics.

The Bible bill came to a vote just days before the candidate filing deadline, giving lawmakers pause about being portrayed by political rivals as being as opposed to the Bible if they voted against the bill.

Earlier this session, the Legislature approved a resolution to add the .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle the state's official symbols. The Murfreesboro-based company run by a prominent Republican supporter, Ronnie Barrett, supplies its firearms to law enforcement agencies, private citizens and more than 70 militaries around the world.

Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, called on Haslam to veto the Bible bill. She called it a "thinly veiled effort to promote one religion over other religions clearly violates both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions."

Southerland said that an outside legal organization has offered to defend any lawsuits challenging the bill for free.

"So I ask you, what do we have to lose?" he said.
Amid all the truly awful things state legislatures do, one of the rare bright spots has been the naming of official symbols. Who was ever made unhappy by the designation of a state rock?

Tennessee, alas, is screwing up the record. The governor is currently trying to decide whether to sign a piece of legislation that would put the Bible on the list of State Things, alongside the salamander (amphibian), milk (beverage), honeybee (agricultural insect), raccoon (wild animal), several variations on the theme of state tree and flower, and nine — nine! — official state songs. The last of which, adopted in 2011, was “Tennessee.”

The next question you’re probably asking is why it took nine tries for Tennessee to get a song named “Tennessee,” and the answer is that it actually has two. You have to admit that’s pretty inclusive. On the other hand, picking the Christian holy book as a state symbol seems simultaneously divisive and unnecessary. Not to mention sort of disrespectful to the Bible, which doesn’t usually get included on the same list as the salamander and the smallmouth bass... (continues)
This caring, bright, civic-minded student, murdered today by men shouting "Allahu Akbar" iheu.org/atheist-studen…pic.twitter.com/G28fDL3LjJ


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Quiz Question?

    According to Russell, the idea that there was ever a 'beginning' of the universe is actually really due to what...? pg. 7

    1. "The poverty of our imagination."

  3. DQ: "Do you question the historical existence of Christ?..."

    Since there is no reason to think that Jesus was an actual historical person, I would say that I believe with some certainty that he did not really exist. I have to admit that one of the reasons I became an atheist at a young age was because of reading how different the accounts of his life were in the gospels and then doing research on the subject of the historicity of Jesus. Since Christianity depends on the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead, his non-existence deals a significant blow to anything except metaphorical interpretations of the gospels (which the Gospel of Mark makes explicit in the text anyway). One would have to find the metaphorical arguments of Christianity superior to those of other religions, but at that point, they are on more-or-less equal ground.

  4. Quiz Question: What is religion based upon?

  5. "Do you agree with Russell's definition of Christianity?"

    I think it's very fair. To try and attach more to the definition runs the very real risk of creating a straw man. Any less and you've lost so much identity that you might as well be describing deism. Refuting deism, I think, would be a very different essay.

  6. "Do you agree with Russell's definition of Christianity"

    I think that Russell does a fair job of a basic definition of Christianity without bringing in different doctrines. I would perhaps contest that a more accurate representation of Christianity would change his definition into requiring a belief in the divinity of Christ.

  7. Christ's actual existence is paramount to the Christian faith. Paul writes that the Resurrection is central to the faith. He states that without the Resurrection the faith would be bankrupt and worthless. So logically His existence is a necessary aspect of the Resurrection. I would suppose that if it were completely and reasonably disproved that there would still be those who would hold to some of the ethical ideas of the faith though.

  8. Caroline Duncan
    Extra Credit

    DQ: "Do you question the historical existence of Christ?..."

    Last semester I had the opportunity to take Jesus of Nazareth here at the university in the religious department, it was a really cool class. Solely focusing on Jesus/Christ (whatever you prefer) as a historical figure, rather than a spiritual leader. (ya’ll should definitely take it if you are interested). Anyways, this one book we read titled the Historical Jesus Five Views, was a book that was divided between five authors, each coming from different belief backgrounds and understandings of Christ. I believe two of these authors were theist and then the other three did not claim a religion. But each one of these authors all agreed on the idea that Christ was a man, who lived on this earth just like we are.
    So from my view and from many readings on this topic that I have found a lot of people from many separate belief systems and backgrounds can agree on the fact that Christ existed, and therefore he was a man. Although, I could probably find the same amount of people saying that he did not exist. Guess it just depends on my sources. I get confused more thinking that a story like that could have been made up so long ago, but yet still be just as important today for people. Something so fake, and so false somehow continuously deeply manifested itself into the world that we live today, and those before us, and probably those after us.
    I never really questioned the historical existence of Christ because I truly never thought about it before I started looking into religions. But after taking that class, it seemed pretty clear to me that Jesus was a man, and therefore he lived on this earth. Also, there is no other Man in history who has ever been written about so much as to Jesus. Now, that does justify everything that has been said or that is being said about this Man, but to answer the question I do not question the historical existence of Christ.

  9. COMMENT: "I should not put barriers in the way of the acquisition of knowledge by anybody at any age." 28

    I love how succinctly he puts this. Put simply--yes, I agree. Education and knowledge have been proven again and again to lessen prejudice, promote the well-being of a group as a whole, and provide more rounded individuals. And every dystopian novel that exists puts some kind of band or restriction on what people can know. If, instead, we were to allow our free-flowing curiosity to run its course, I believe, like Russell, that some of our main human constraints like fear and hatred could be eliminated.

  10. Are you depressed,consoled, or entirely unmoved by the thought that our form of life will die out eventually?

    I can't help but think of Scheffler when considering this question. After reading his thoughts and my group's midterm presentation, I am less inclined to believe that the ultimate extinction of everything and everyone I know or am even tenuously connected has no effect upon my current perspectives. It may not dog my steps or haunt my consciousness but it has real consequences in my belief systems--as Scheffler points out. So while I cannot isolate a single emotion that I feel all the time in regard to the universe's destruction, I cannot say in good conscience that I am entirely unmoved.

  11. Discussion Question

    Would you continue to "plant trees in your garden" if you knew--divine or otherwise--the world would was coming to a quick and definite end?

  12. Quiz Question

    How does Russell phrase the Euthyphro dilemma?

  13. Quiz Question

    What is, according to Russell, the "worst feature of the Christian religion"?

  14. Discussion Question

    What do you think of Russell's train metaphor for our treatment of the topic of sex? Is it accurate? Is it something you experienced growing up?